When we think about food banks, we might be under the misconception that they’re mostly used by regular clients stopping by for a weekly hamper pickup, but the reality couldn’t be more different. Here Katharine Schmidt, executive director, Food Banks Canada shares insights into the services that modern food banks provide to help their clients meet their own long-term needs.
Community kitchens. Whether it’s the Greater Vancouver Food Bank in Vancouver, or The Sharing Place in Orillia, many food banks across Canada operate community kitchen programs. Community kitchens bring together community members to host workshops to teach participants how to start their own community kitchen, provide food safety training and certification, and teach vital cooking skills to clients and volunteers.
Kids programs. According to Food Banks Canada, approximately one third of those helped by food banks are children. Good nutrition during infancy and early childhood years is vital to long-term growth and health. That’s why food banks often provide special hampers for families with infants and small children. Local food banks will also point their clients to community programs to help educate parents and children on proper nutrition.
Fresh food recovery. Surplus food is an essential part of the food bank ecosystem. Food banks typically support local agencies like shelters and community centres with these items, which they pick up from local grocery stores, restaurants, hotels and cafeterias. In addition to feeding our communities, food recovery programs also help to reduce food waste.
Food hampers. Food hampers remain one of the most valuable tools in our efforts to help people in need fight against hunger. And contrary to popular belief, most clients couldn’t be considered regulars. According to a 2016 report from the Mississauga Food Bank, only 11 per cent of clients visited the location once or more per month. Food hampers will help provide recipients with essential food items to augment existing food supplies at home when times get tough.
Community programs, nutritional education and support for other community organizations help relieve food insecurity issues. But they could not operate without the help of volunteers and a steady stream of donations. This spring, local food banks across Canada are partnering with stores like Loblaws and Real Canadian Superstore to collect donations and help feed our communities.